When my partner and I decided to get a puppy – a doberman puppy, of all things; an ambitious choice as a first dog for either of us – I knew I’d have to train her right from the beginning. I cannot stress how close to nothing I knew about dog training and behaviour at that point in my life. Like a lot of people, I watched Cesar Milan on TV at the time (though now you could not pay me enough to sit through an episode). I tried to alpha roll Athena once when she was maybe nine weeks old, and she just looked at me like “What are you doing, weirdo? Is this a game?” I also tried loud noises to stop whining exactly once when something in my gut went this doesn’t feel right…
Thankfully, that led me to When Hounds Fly. I’ve talked about this briefly before, but long story short, When Hounds Fly helped me survive puppyhood with a rambunctious doberman, and it helped me find my passion. Training helped Athena focus her mental energy and become less destructive (though not before she chewed on my signed copy of The Fault in Our Stars, leading to one of only two times I’ve yelled at my partner “Come get the dog and keep her away from me! I can’t even look at her for at least an hour!”), because bored dogs make up their own games, and their own games typically aren’t things we want them doing. We took Puppy Socialization class, Foundation Skills, Rally-O levels one and two, and the Canine Good Neighbour Prep class. Somewhere in the middle of Foundation Skills I became borderline obsessive about training, and somewhere nearning the end of Rally-O I decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I talked to Andre after class one day, about a year and a half ago now, and basically said, “Do you think I could do this? And do you recommend the Karen Pryor Academy?” and he replied, more or less, yes and yes. He encouraged me to come to him with questions, and touch base along the way.
So I did.
I read all the books (I’m looking at you, Karen Pryor, Jean Donaldson, Patricia McConnell, Pat Miller, and Kathy Sado), I took classes and started volunteering, I quit my boring job in a bar and started walking dogs full time, I started this blog, and finally I registered for the Dog Trainer Professional program through the Karen Pryor Academy. For the past six months or so, I’ve also been volunteering at When Hounds Fly, as well as teaching my own “teacher in training” class on Saturdays.
And now, here I am, a year and a half later, set to graduate in mid-January. I am unabashedly proud of myself; I decided what I wanted, I worked really hard, and I am making real progress.
That brings me, finally, to my big news:
I have signed contracts and am officially quitting walking dogs to work full time training at When Hounds Fly as of January.
I am thrilled. I can’t imagine better people to work with than Andre, Katie, and Rachel, and I have such respect for this school, as I’ve tried to articulate above.
New year, new job, new adventures… wish me luck! And come see me when you get a new puppy ;)